Blades face 20-goal Joe

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No one, as their results this season demonstrate, can accuse Preston North End of being a one man team.

But some players, even the most egalitarian of managers will acknowledge, are more equal than others.

So, when Sheffield United’s coaching staff devised their tactics for tonight’s fixture at Deepdale, it seems inconceivable that nulifying the threat posed by Joe Garner did not feature prominently on the visitors’ to-do-list.

The former Watford and Nottingham Forest centre-forward has been a driving force behind North End’s climb to fourth in the League One table and, as Simon Grayson’s team attempt to consolidate their automatic promotion credentials by inflicting a rare defeat upon the Blades, the 44-year-old’s assistant Glynn Snodin believes Garner could prove the difference between, given recent results, two evenly balanced sides.

“Joe wasn’t playing a lot earlier in the season but we kept watching him in training and commenting on how he was looking sharp and bright,” Snodin said. “He seemed to get another yard in his step and the time came to put him in.

“Since then he has taken his chance really well and got to the 20-goal mark, which is a figure all strikers look for. That’s a great achievement, no matter what division you are in. “I think that Joe can get 30 goals if he believes he can. Providing we keep getting good service into him.

“He is full of confidence at the moment and wants to score more and more goals.”

Like United, who lost 10 of their opening 14 matches this term, Garner has been something of a slow-burn but enters this evening’s contest searching for his 21st of the season having drawn a rare blank against Stevenage last week.

That result, which stretched North End’s unbeaten run to eight outings, means United’s latest opponents trail second-placed Brentford by just eight points with 10 games remaining.

Given United’s defensive record - they have conceded just 20 goals since Nigel Clough’s appointment in October - Grayson will be keen to ensure the supply lines between Garner and his colleagues remain intact during a fixture set to exert great influence over the race for a top six finish.